South Dakota's school report card shows drop in attendance

Kim Jarrett

(The Center Square) - The South Dakota Department of Education's 2021-2022 school report card shows a drop in attendance from prior years while graduation rates remain stable.

The statewide attendance rate dropped from a pre-pandemic rate of 92 percent to 86 percent during the 2021-2022 school year, according to the report released Thursday. 

"It's pretty simple: Kids can't learn if they are not at school," said Secretary of Education Tiffany Sanderson in a news release. "One effort the state is making to combat absenteeism is a public awareness campaign. The campaign advises students and their families on the long-term benefits of regular school attendance."

Eighty-two percent of the state's high school students graduated in four years, a slight decline from 83 percent prior to the pandemic. The overall graduation rate was unchanged at 90 percent.

Fifty-three percent of all South Dakota students improved in language arts, and 47 percent improved in math based on state assessments, according to the report. 

"To supplement local efforts to improve student learning coming out of the pandemic, the Department of Education and Board of Regents recently launched the Dakota Dreams Online Tutoring Program," the department said in the news release. "The free service provides K-12 students with individualized support outside of the school day."

About 62 percent of the state's students take higher education courses after graduation, according to the report.

South Dakota's 2022 graduating class bested the national average on the ACT with a composite score of 21.5. The national average composite score for the ACT, a college readiness test, was 19.8, according to a news release from ACT. The data only reflects South Dakota students from public schools, according to the education department. 

"Kudos to school leaders, educators, and students across South Dakota," Sanderson said. "This achievement is one to celebrate, and it's reflective of the teaching and learning that goes on every day in our schools."